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The feminist fairy godmother we all need: Getting to know Audre Lorde

by Dara Mathis
7 months ago

Poetry goddess. Civil rights activist. Feminist warrior. Audre Lorde was an epic wordsmith whose quotes still inspire people today to speak out for what they believe. Read on to find out more about this brilliant and brave freedom writer.

Gutsy girl. Born in 1934 as Audrey Geraldine Lorde, she chose to drop the “y” from her first name as a child because she loved the way “Audre Lorde” looked in writing.

Speaking of speaking out…Audre was born with tongue-tie (who knew being tongue-tied was more than just a figure of speech?). In a twist of irony, she grew up to be an outspoken poet, speaker, librarian, and professor. She also didn’t let being legally blind stop her from learning to read and write at a young age.

Young and gifted. She got an early start in her writing career, landing her first published poem in Seventeen magazine when she was only 15 years old.

Native New Yorker with Caribbean-American heritage. Her parents hailed from the islands of Grenada and Carriacou in the West Indies, but they raised Audre in New York City. She made her home state so proud that they crowned her the poet laureate from 1991-1992.

Warrior. Audre fought a 14-year battle with cancer and used her experiences to support other people with the illness. In 1980, she published The Cancer Journals, a courageous collection of essays and journal entries about finding the strength to survive.

Body positivity before the hashtag era. After she had a mastectomy, Audre decided to love her body without a prosthetic breast, even though people told that seeing her with only one breast made them feel weird. (How rude!) She made it fashionable, cheekily wearing one long earring and one short earring to mimic her chest.

Fearless. One of her most famous—and most badass—quotes: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”

Feminist activist and icon. Audre wasn’t one to stay quiet, especially when it came to standing up against sexism, racism, and homophobia. Just the opposite. She wrote, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” She was such a rad feminist celebrity that over 1,000 people attended a conference in 1990 called “I Am Your Sister,” just to honor her work.

Expert on the erotic. Audre believed in the erotic as a power to be celebrated, not hidden. She considered herself “committed to sexual freedom.” (In other words, she was gung ho about letting your freak flag fly.)

HBIC. Audre teamed up with her poet BFF Barbara Smith in 1981 to co-found Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first feminist press run by women of color.

Champion for diversity. She wanted everyone to get a seat at the table. And because Audre was the queen of quotables, she said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 58, but she left behind a huge treasury of books filled with her poems and essays. We seriously love “the Lorde” and could praise her name all day. You can learn more about her life and works here.

Dara Mathis is a freelance writer whose work focuses on pop culture, feminism, and motherhood. A Florida girl at heart, she lives in Maryland with her family, which includes a yappy mini-Schnauzer.

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